In 1872 one of the greatest and most influential vampire stories was published – Carmilla. The short story written by Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu is the inspiration behind countless vampires tales we all know and love. With its amazing style, wicked sense of horror and its risky use of vampiric lesbianism, it was a perfect vampire tale. A story that influenced many writers, including the legendary Bram Stoker, who according to some scholars, wrote Dracula thanks to Le Fanu.
Le Fanu definitely did his research when it came to the undead. Using the old myths and legends to make Carmilla even more impressive. His character, Carmilla Karnstein, continues to be one of the greatest female vampires of all time.
– Spoilers –
The story starts off with heroine Laura reminiscing about her childhood and the nightly visit to her home in Styria from a mysterious woman who caused Laura to feel needle-like puncture wounds on her breast. About twelve years later, Laura helps out a beautiful young woman who survived a horrible wagon crash. Her name is, of course, Carmilla. Carmilla appears to be the same woman from Laura’s dreams; she also looks very similar to a portrait of Countess Mircalla Karnstein in Laura’s house, painted in 1698 (many years before).
Laura and Carmilla soon develop a close relationship, but Laura growing weak and exhausted with every passing day, suffering an attack from a phantom or cat coming into her room. Her death is prevented by the arrival of a close family friend, a general, who lost his own daughter to a woman named Millarca. It is soon obvious that Millarca, Mircalla and Carmilla are one and the same. Found in the ruins of an old castle, Carmilla is staked decapitated and cremated. Laura’s final words:
To this hour the image of Carmilla returns to memory with ambiguous alternations — sometimes the playful, languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend I saw in the ruined church; and often from a reverie I have started, fancying I heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing-room door.